MLS players asked to take significant salary cuts

MLS commissioner Don Garber (Credit: MLS)

Major League Soccer has begun discussions with the MLS Players’ Association about the prospect of players taking significant salary cuts due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

According to ESPN, talks involving MLS commissioner Don Garber, deputy commissioner Mark Abbott, and the MLSPA executive board took place this week.

MLS has confirmed that the league will not return to action until at least June 8 amid the ongoing health crisis. According to the Washington Post, the league could restart as late as September and play until February 2021.

The league is looking to deal with the financial realities of the extended shutdown. According to the ESPN report, MLS is asking the majority of its players to take as much as a 50 per cent pay cut should games be canceled.

The extent of the salary cuts will depend on how many games are canceled, while playing behind closed doors will also impact the proposal. MLS commissioner Don Garber recently admitted that the league could resume without fans in stands.

Players making less than $100,000 would not be affected, while players making above $100,000 will not have their salaries fall below that threshold, the report added.

The vast majority of MLS head office staff, including Garber, are already taking enforced pay cuts due to the league’s shutdown.

The ongoing health crisis could potentially cost MLS teams billions of dollars, Seattle Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer has claimed. “The losses at the team level in MLS will be astronomical. Hundreds of millions, billions, really big numbers,” Hanauer told the Sounder At Heart podcast.

A league statement read: “MLS remains focused on exploring a wide variety of formats for playing the entire 2020 season including pushing back MLS Cup into December or later. Like all leagues, we are in discussion with our players about changes to player compensation due to the financial impact on the league and our clubs from the Covid-19 crisis. We are seeking to work collaboratively with the MLSPA to find a solution that provides a safety net for all players, opportunity to earn full salary in the scenario where all matches are played with fans, and in particular provides protection for the players at the lower end of the salary scale.”

Earlier this week, the United States Soccer Federation shut down its boys and girls’ Development Academy due to the financial impact of the health crisis, with MLS stepping into launch a new nationwide youth program. The federation has also implemented a series of further cutbacks, including staff pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs, as well as shutting down a number of youth teams until 2021.

Meanwhile, The Athletic reports that former US Soccer executive Jay Berhalter has been hired as a consultant by MLS.